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Day 23 – The Scariest Thing in Nature is Man (Scuba Liveaboard 2)

March 26, 2010

Dateline: Koh Bon and Koh Tachai, Similan Islands, Thailand – Friday, March 26, 2010

This is Day 2 of a four-day series. Click here to read an excuse-filled introduction to this entry. Click here to read starting from Day 1.

5:45 – I am awake. I don’t know why. My pillow is soaked the same it was last night. Perhaps this boat is magical.

7:00 – “Waaake up callllllll.”

7:30 – Another dive briefing. All the briefings have been accompanied by a colored marker drawing of the dive site including pictures of what we’re going to see and where. The whiteboard also includes the dive site name, max depth, and max bottom times. Someone’s working really hard to put these together.

8:06 – In the water again. Rubi is obsessed with the details. He’s constantly in the rocks looking for small things. Nudibranches, flat worms, seahorses. When he finds something, he shows us then snaps a ton of pictures.

He’s got a good eye, too. He found two frogfish, both of which looked exactly like coral. They’re weird little things with big faces and hand-like fins. You can imagine them crawling out of the primordial ooze onto land.

I’m swimming along when suddenly I see a nude man float by. I gag into my regulator. He’s in full scuba gear, but with no clothes on.

Upon closer inspection (a must), I discover he’s wearing a speedo. Naked Dive Guy becomes one of the more terrifying creatures in the water.

9:03 –Two olives balanced on the ends of a roll of toothpicks. How is that possible. . .

9:20 – Eating again. The food’s been really good. Restaurant quality. This is especially impressive considering that our cook works in a space the size of a very small bathroom.

10:00 – Beach time. Those who are into sunburns take the zodiac to a white sandy beach a couple hundred yards from the boat. I’m no sun worshipper so I stay onboard.

This pays off. A sea turtle moseys up to the back of the boat. Everyone is off the boat and in the water, snorkeling. The turtle eats bananas out of our hands. The Chinese are having a field day with their cameras. It’s like I imagined yesterday: they’re gesturing, snapping pictures, and chattering away. Sometimes stereotypes are stereotypes for a reason.

11:02 – Everyone’s back on board. Dive briefing ongoing while we’re motoring to the next dive site. Turns out Naked Dive Guy is Russian. He is also in PMS Britannia’s dive group. This could explain her mood. If I had a naked guy trailing me around all the time, I might feel a little testy (a pun!).

11:15 – In the water. This site is cool. We follow three sea turtles around as they feed on the bottom. We find more slugs and nudibranches. We see strange fish that would bore you to describe.

I accidentally hit my hand against some coral while swimming. It actually breaks the skin. I can see a little bit of coral imbedded in the heel of my palm. I squeeze my skin and it pops out. I roll the skin around a bit and a little fleck or two of sand or something comes out. So does some grainy green substance. There must be some coral stuck underneath. I press more of it out. The sandy substance continues to flow. It’s so weird and green. I’m fascinated, but a little worried that this sea creature has put something nasty in me. I fear infestation. More squeezing, more green. This thing is stubborn.

Then I remember that I’m at 25 meters and that the water filters out colors starting with red, then yellow, orange, then green. That means I’m not squeezing out green, I’m actually squeezing out red. I’ve spent the last two minutes trying to rid my body of my own blood.

I is smart.

12:30 – Lunch. More writing in dive books. Doing this is actually fun. I swear. It’s like a college reunion. Lots of, “Do you remember when we all pretended Jeremiah as was actually named Jim and Jannine didn’t find out for four months?” except it goes more like, “Do remember that green and yellow long fish I saw and showed to Ozzie?” and the stuff happened only 15 minutes ago. You’re nostalgic for things that just happened. It’s like living in a time warp

13:17 – I sat down next to the four Chinese people after lunch to do my log book. They were laughing and playing some game with their feet. I ask what it’s about. One girl whose English is pretty good says that it’s rock, paper, scissors.

I give it a try but everything comes out rock or paper. I have a hard time quickly making the symbols for scissors (spread big toe from other twos). They laugh at me, even the formerly naked Chinese girl. She teases me (in Chinese) about how I suck.

I believe I have officially made peace. Silence. Much better than apologizing.

14:00 – An older German guy, Erick, who’s dived here since the 1970’s just told me I look like Obama. I had no idea what to do with this. Is it the shaved head? The fact that I’m brown? Is it that he’s German? Is it the nitrogen in his blood? I decide to take this as a compliment.

14:45 – Dive briefing. I’ve been on the road so long I’ve acclimated to vacationing around Europeans. I no longer notice men in Speedos. Naked Dive Guy is an exception. In the water, all I see is flesh hauling scuba gear. At lunch, I see a naked man eating chow. It’s like I found naked Waldo and now he haunts me everywhere I go. This despite the fact that there are other men on the boat who are also in Speedos. So so weird.

15:00 – Ozzie, Christoffer, Rubi, Robin, and I are all in the water again. We swim around a point on an island and into a giant school of silver fish trying to take shelter in the rocks. Giant trevally are darting in and out of the school, feeding. It’s like watching a nature documentary on the best HD screen ever. The school darts around us and the big fish whip in and out. The current’s rolling us around, too. It feels like everything is moving.

We see large schools of fish, some of which have yellow stripes down their silver blue bodies. If you relax and don’t focus, it’s like being in a moving, abstract painting. All indistinct colors and shapes that somehow just fit together perfectly. Have I mentioned I love diving?

16:00 – Out of the water. Snacking on fruits. Drinking water to prevent cramping. Passively removing nitrogen from blood.

16:45 – I discover that Christoffer is a chef. An honest-to-God French-trained chef. He’s owned his own restaurant. He’s currently the sous chef at a sushi place in one of the big hotels in Stockholm. He says his favorite food to cook is Japanese.

I ask about vacation. He says he just tells work he’s leaving for a few weeks and when he’ll be back, maybe. If you’re a good cook, people will hire you. The restaurant business is apparently very insular. So long as you can do good work, you can find a job. They understand if you need to take time off. Sometimes, he says, he just quits for a couple of months then goes back when he needs money.

He asks about being a lawyer. I tell him it’s like being a chef, except in an office, on the phone, hunched over a computer or piles of paper, with only two weeks of “vacation.” He seems satisfied with his life choices.

18:13 – Rubi and I go over how to take underwater pictures. Tomorrow I will borrow his camera and I begin my career as an underwater photographer. He says it’s going to be hard. His philosophy is to take as many pictures as possible and hope one turns out. Maybe it’s hard for him, but I’ve got an incredible amount of raw talent and improper levels of bravado. I’m looking forward to it.

We found Nemo.

A very poisonous but pretty lionfish.

A five foot long grouper butts in and ruins an otherwise awesome picture of Mervyn scuba diving.

19:00 – After a quick dive briefing, it’s another night dive. This one’s better than the first. I feel much more comfortable in the black water. We stumble on a giant moray eel. I see a blue painted lobster. I wish I had a camera.

21:08 – After dinner, we review some of Rubi’s pics. I see how he’s shooting and how he corrects the colors and crops the pictures for best results. He says he quickly takes a picture just to make sure he has one. Only then does he try to make adjustments as the conditions (current, moving subject, time) permit. He figures he can sort out the details on the boat on the laptop.

Tomorrow should be fun.

GALLERY:  Click through for bonus pictures including more turtles and fish.

One Comment leave one →
  1. tutz permalink
    August 19, 2010 2:11 am

    Wow! You found Nemo… how about Dory? =)

    I’ve seen those fishes too, but not as lucky as you, because I only get to see them in big bowl, as in big big bowl, they say, its actually an aquarium…

    Diving sounds really cool…

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